Eye For Film >> Movies >> CSI: Complete Season 9 (2009) Film Review
Coming up with a show formula that can last for season after season is a tough ask. The road to a series lifetime as long as the likes of Law & Order is littered with the corpses of those that were killed by bad ratings, mortally wounded by the departure of a key cast member or simply starved of sufficient creative input. The anatomy of CSI, however, remains hale and healthy and is, in the ninth season of the show, arguably strengthened by the loss of old characters and the introduction of new ones.
We join the Vegas crime scene team where we left them at the end of season eight, as Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan) makes his exit on the wrong end of a bullet. He isn't the first member of the core cast to depart lately. Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox) - who pops in for an episode or three here - already left behind her lab coat and, by the time the credits roll on 10th episode One To Go, the big cheese himself Gil Grissom (masterfully played by William Petersen since the series' inception back in 2000) will also have catalogued his last cadaver.
Something is most certainly lost by the exit of Gil. The lynchpin of the series, his character has always been the most well-endowed when it came to backstory - although, in fairness, soapy arcs are not one of the strong points of the original CSI, which had a habit, particularly in its early seasons, of raking up and ditching character plot elements on a whim. Credit is due to the creative team behind the show, then, for making a virtue out of the cast change, bringing in no lesser a body than Laurence Fishburne as a 'replacement' big name. What is particularly clever about this manoeuvre, is that they have resisted the temptation to parachute him in at the head of the team. Fishburne starts as a rookie, albeit a knowledgeable one, opening up plenty of story possibilities and a chance to cover some of the 'mechanics' of the crime scene work that haven't been touched on for several series.
Fishburne is an excellent choice as the character Professor Ray Langston, embuing the physician-turned-CSI with an emotional hearbeat that marks his character out from those who have gone before. Lauren Lee Smith, as the more experienced, but also new to the team Riley Adams, also makes a good impression and is wisely given a decent amount of screentime by writers so that she develops character traits of her own.
Season nine also sees CSI notch up its 200th episode - a Mexican-wrestling extravaganza directed by William Friedkin. But for the most part, all the comings and goings lend this series a melancholy air. There are one or two episodes played for 'comedy' - most notably A Space Oddity, the latest in the line of occasional shows letting lab rats David Hodges (Wallace Langham) and Wendy Simms (Liz Vassey) et al come to the fore - but for the most part things are in a minor key. The best episodes are those, which mix light and dark, however, particularly Grissom's farewell and The Grave Shift, which uses Langston's addition to the team for some 'reboot' fun. After all the excitement of the first 12 episodes, however, the season begins to run out of steam a bit and although a Nick-centric episode - Turn, Turn, Turn - offers a welcome chance for George Eads to step into the limelight and If I Had A Hammer gives Catherine (Marg Helgenberger) an enjoyable trip down memory lane, the last few episodes go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
Still, if the plots could do with a little more excitement and the end of the season represents more of a holding pattern than massive development, there's plenty of life in these characters yet.Reviewed on: 10 Mar 2010